Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to pay-per-view (PPV) for the 13th and final time this year with UFC 155: "Dos Santos vs. Velasquez 2," which went down last night (Dec. 29, 2012) in the organization's backyard of Las Vegas, Nevada.
Despite names such as Forrest Griffin, Chris Weidman and Gray Maynard dropping off the year-end card because of injury, UFC 155, on paper, still featured a number of intriguing matchups, topped off of course by the heavyweight championship main event between Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez.
Velasquez regained the heavyweight championship belt from dos Santos in the event headliner, while Jim Miller beat up Joe Lauzon, Yushin Okami decisioned Alan Belcher and Constantinos Philippou registered a technical knockout of Tim Boetsch on the PPV main card.
In a sport like mixed martial arts (MMA), each bout can only have one winner and one loser. Earning a victory inside the world-famous Octagon is the highest of highs, while suffering a defeat in front of millions of viewers can be the lowest of lows.
Every competitor who steps foot in the cage is looking for that moment of glory. Some capture it, others don't.
There were several shining stars on the UFC 155 fight card, as well as an equal amount of disappointments. With that said, it's time to name the biggest winner and biggest loser from 2012's close-out event in "Sin City."
The biggest winner of the night was clearly Velasquez for his title-winning performance over dos Santos in the UFC 155 main event. Velasquez utterly dominated the Brazilian for five-rounds, scoring a lopsided decision victory (watch it here).
Velasquez was viewed as the underdog in the rematch after being knocked out in just 64-seconds in his first meeting with dos Santos in Nov. 2011. Regardless of that, he showed who the truly superior fighter was with a well-rounded victory over "Cigano."
There's no argument regarding Velasquez's status as the top winner of the night, merely because the biggest prize in MMA came along with his victory -- the UFC heavyweight championship belt.
Jim Miller may have defeated Joe Lauzon, but both men were both winners after putting on one of the most entertaining fights of the year in the co-main event at UFC 155. On top of being a thrilling three-round affair, the fight was one of the bloodiest battles in UFC history, pretty much entirely because of the multiple gashes opened on the head of Lauzon. The 155-pound competitors displayed heart, skill and technique and for their efforts were awarded an addition $65,000 for "Fight of the Night," which in Lauzon's case is a UFC-record tying feat.
Constantinos Philippou had a somewhat surprising performance, defeating the red-hot Tim Boetsch via third-round technical knockout in one of the featured bouts on the main card. Despite Philippou coming into the fight as a very narrow betting favorite, his victory could be considered a minor upset because of the fact Boetsch was coming off back-to-back victories over top contenders Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard. Philippou was a relative unknown to a majority of fans coming into UFC 155 -- last night he proved he is here to stay and can hand with the best middleweights in the world.
After an underwhelming performance against Buddy Roberts at UFC 150 last August, many believed Yushin Okami was past his peak as a mixed martial artist. The Japanese fighter proved at UFC 155 that he is still one of the elite at 185-pounds by dominating Alan Belcher en route to a unanimous decision victory. Belcher was on the rise prior to facing Okami and "Thunder" shut down any momentum "The Talent" had with an effort that proved he is still a threat in the middleweight division.
Eddie Wineland may not have been able to finish Brad Pickett in the FX "Prelims" headliner, but he certainly showed who the superior fighter was with a decisive decision victory. The two bantamweight contenders slugged it out on the feet for three rounds; however, it was Wineland who clearly has the superior stand up arsenal as he kept perfect range and landed numerous counterpunches, rocking Pickett on more than one occasion. Wineland's victory was impressive and he certainly showed he is one the elite bantamweights in the world, but his effort may not have been enough to solidify a No. 1 contenders position at 135-pounds. On a final note, even though the judge's scored the fight as a split decision, it doesn't take anything away from Wineland's victory as he clearly won the fight.
Myles Jury was extremely impressive with his upset victory over Michael Johnson. "Fury" completely dominated all three rounds of the fight for the biggest victory of his career and in the process opened up many people's eyes in regards to his talent.
Todd Duffee made a successful return to the UFC with a first-round technical knockout of Phil De Fries on the Facebook "Prelims" portion of the card. Duffee was content engaging De Fries in the clinch while landing dirty boxing combinations until he finally rocked the British fighter with a series of massive right hands, forcing referee Yves Lavigne to call an end to the fight at the 2:04 mark. Despite being out of the UFC for over three years, Duffee showed he is a threat in the heavyweight division and it will be interesting to see what the organization does with him next.
The biggest loser of the night was dos Santos. The Brazilian's defeat to Velasquez was absolutely nothing to hang his head about, but the fact he lost the title belt, and simultaneously his the first fight in the Octagon, makes the implications of his loss more significant than any other fighter on the card. There's going to be no bashing of dos Santos here -- "Cigano" displayed the heart and determination few other fighters can match, but losing a championship fight is still losing a championship fight and that's the reason dos Santos tops the list of UFC 155 losers.
Belcher was dominated by Okami by unanimous decision for a second time in the rematch of their 2006 fight, which "Thunder" also won by decision. There's nothing to be ashamed in losing to Okami, but the fact Belcher was talking about fighting the likes of Michael Bisping, Vitor Belfort and Chris Weidman before even stepping in the cage at UFC 155 brought an added sting to the defeat. Belcher is hands-down one of the top-10 middleweights in the world, it just seems Okami has his number at this point.
Chris Leben's return to the Octagon was a letdown. Leben was favored over UFC newcomer Derek Brunson, but was defeated via unanimous decision. Over a 13-month layoff because of suspension, "The Crippler" was expected to come back as a rejuvenated fighter. That was not the case, though, as Brunson outstruck and outgrappled Leben for the win. Leben way get a mulligan from the UFC for his performance due to the layoff, but he needs to come back with a strong effort in his next fight.
Johnson had his hype train derailed when his three-fight win-streak was snapped by Jury in a one-sided fight. When Johnson vs. Jury was announced, many fans complained, saying Johnson deserved a bigger name opponent and it would be a squash match for him. That was far from the case as Johnson was shut down in the bottom position, where he spent a majority of the fight. It will be back to the drawing board for the TUF 12 runner-up.
Who was your biggest winner and loser from UFC 155? Let us know in the comments in the comment section below.